Mad Max Kellerman has returned to form on HBO's BAD, and that is both a welcome development and a source of annoyance.

It's a good thing to have a semblance of the old Max back; knowing what we know about what that nutcase loser James Butler did to his brother, it's a feat unto itself that Kellerman doesn't take about five years off to collect himself after the brutal beating death of his best pal. It’s going on two years since an out-of-his-tree Butler betrayed his boy Sam Kellerman, Max’s little bro, and took out his frustration at the pathetic direction his life was taking on somebody who reached out to him. Butler will have 30 years in lockup to try to make sense of that senseless act.

As unfair as it may seem, life must go on. So Max Kellerman, post tragedy, went back to the office. He went through the motions on his Fox Sports Net show, “I, Max,” which was cancelled in February 2005 after being unveiled in May 2004.

Some of that old flicker, though, that ‘New York is the center of the world/I’m too smart for MENSA’ ego-fueled spark was back when Max started BAD at the end of April. He, vanilla Fran Charles and still-hoping to-find-his-legs Lennox Lewis are a work in progress, but it is clear that Max is the star of the trio, and there will probably come a time, when he finds his authentic voice (whatever, Oprah…) that we’ll be able to enjoy a crap card that much more because Kellerman will expertly apply the right shade of lipstick on the pig…

But, still, that doesn’t mean that I’m pro-Max 100% of the time— it's a tad annoying when Max goes off on a tangent that he delivers with aggravating certainty, as if there couldn't possibly be room for dissent…

Which brings me to Max's anti-heavyweight rant he delivered on Saturday's BAD broadcast. Misters Maskaev, Liakhovich, Valuev and Klitschko should get a load of his commentary, which was a swift backhand of dismissive snottiness:

“The heavyweight title is vacant,” Kellerman opined. “There are no champions. The number one heavyweight in the world is Wladimir Klitschko but the heavyweight championship of the world is vacant.”

Don't misunderstand me, I think the sanctioning bodies bigwigs are largely a collection of conscience-free cons who have found a way to be one of the 1% of people who make a living from this sport. But the system is how it is, and it means we have a bunch of guys holding belts in the heavyweight division who will not, when all is said and done, be remembered as all-time greats. They are more Rahman “Rudy Clay” Ali than Muhammad Ali. So what? Get over it. So the heavyweight division isn't in a Golden Age. Why are we hammering away at some fairly serviceable guys? Maskaev, based on age and perseverance alone, deserves better than to be lumped into a collection of refuse as Kellerman did. And I happen to think Sergei (or Serguei, can we have a poll to decide how we're going to spell this cat's name?) Liakhovich is a solid fighter who puts forth a solid effort and gives fans a good performance for their money spent. I also believe Valuev is not the organic-HGH-OD'd freak many make him out to be, that he has diligently worked at his craft and that he may well turn into a B- version of Wladimir Klitschko, with a better chin.

Maybe Max was irked at Don King, for promising a heavyweight title tournament and not delivering, so he let off some steam. Because the same really can be said for many of the weight classes out there, which are dotted by many champions who don’t “deserve” to own a belt in comparison to a higher-caliber colleague…

By any account, I'd rather listen to Kellerman give his provocative analysis than be subjected to a homer, who parrots the network party line. Say what you will about Max, he does not commit the cardinal sin of the analyst: he is not boring….

Kellerman, clearly close to finding the correct tone and voice in the mix, seems to be back in his “Ron Popeil mode,” judging by Saturday’s effort. Of Paul Williams, Kellerman gushed like he was describing Sweetpea Whittaker in his heyday.

“His fearlessness, I’ve never seen anything like him,” Kellerman said. “The height, the volume (of punches), a lefty…”

Not done there, Kellerman stated that he thinks Williams’ beard is one of the most durable in the game. “Paul Williams has one of the best chins, weight class for weight class,” he said.

“Great chin,” LL said, clearly impressed at a Mitchell counter right hook in the third that didn’t make Williams even blink strange.

“Sharmba not known as a great puncher even at junior welter, now he’s at welter, you don’t expect him to really rock a guy at that weight,” Kellerman answered. Curious point, as Kellerman diminished the power of the earlier assertion.

All told, Kellerman is rounding back into form. Why do I say that? How do I really know? Because I’m writing about him, dissecting his performance, and people are talking about him. Welcome back, Max…

SPEEDBAG Hey Keith Kizer, I must suggest a refresher course for referee Vic Drakulich on the warning signs of a boxer who is on his last legs, so that in the future, we don’t have need for paramedics at the next Drakulich appearance.

That man dropped the ball, clearly, in the Williams/Mitchell assignment. After getting dropped in the third Mitchell came back for more in the fourth. Williams landed a three punch combo at :13 of the round that put Mitchell on his knees, this after he’d been basted with combos and had to hold on earlier in the round.

“Oh, that’s it,” Lewis cried as Mitchell took a knee.

Clearly, Lewis recognized that Mitchell was in over his head and had a lung full of New Orleans levee-breach water. He was hurtin'. But Drakulich  didn’t see it. He gave an eight-count and sent the lamb for more slaughter.

Backing up, Mitchell fell on his butt, clearly spent. At 1:33, Williams pounded him into the ropes and it should have been called a knockdown. But Drakula warned him not to hold. The beating continued.

At 1:06 a mean right put Mitchell down again, and he took Williams with him in a heap. Game over, right?

Not for Marquis de Drakulich. He gave him another eight-count.

Mitchell, stumbling like he’d been in a chugging contest, took more shots at the :15 mark and was sent to the canvas again. Drak counted and waved it off as Mitchell got up a 10.10 seconds.

Not a good outing, IMO; Drak needs to study this tape and determine if he’d react the same way if given the chance.